In a recent Instagram post that has since garnered significant media attention, Demi Lovato (she/her) denounced gender reveal parties as transphobic.
These parties have gained popularity online over the past few years, with many soon-to-be parents taking to social media to share increasingly elaborate and creative ways of revealing the gender of their unborn baby. Despite their popularity, they have also been widely criticized for being problematic.
Last month, Demi Lovato reposted content originally shared by author, poet, and performer ALOK (they/them) that explained the issues with gender reveal parties. In doing so, she elevated the voice of someone within the gender non-conforming community rather than speaking for them.
She used her privilege and platform to uplift those whose voices are all too often marginalised due to societal oppression and discrimination and this is hugely important; listening to those who are directly affected by discrimination, whether it be transphobia, racism, homophobia, sexism, classism, or any other form, is essential to understanding what the problems are and how to address them.
They contribute to the traditional gender narrative in which being cisgender is positioned as the norm
In the post, they detailed how these parties contribute to upholding a rigid gender binary and perpetuate transphobia. They explain that they contribute to the traditional gender narrative in which being cisgender is positioned as the norm, the default from which anything else is a deviation.
ALOK also relates this to the automatic equation of genitals to gender which, in addition to being damaging to those for whom this is not the case, is scientifically inaccurate.
For example, intersex individuals (of whom there are many) vary significantly in their chromosomes, their hormone production, their genitals, and their gender identity.
Furthermore, the post points to the stereotypical gender ideals that these parties are based on. Usually, the supposed gender of the baby is indicated by a reveal of either the colour blue (to represent a boy), or pink (for girls). It feeds into traditional ideas of femininity and masculinity and, in doing so, prescribes a set of ideals for the unborn baby, as well as for the rest of the world.
ALOK commented that ‘People are taught to experience themselves and one another as ideas of how they should be, not the reality of what they are and what is.’
There are, however, many people who support gender reveal parties. They argue that it is important to know the gender of the baby and these parties are just harmless fun that bring people together to celebrate the imminent arrival.
Knowing the sex of the baby and publicly revealing it with a burst of blue or pink are very different
Furthermore, there has been some research to suggest that knowing the gender of the baby helps soon-to-be fathers to bond with the baby. However, knowing the sex of the baby and publicly revealing it with a burst of blue or pink are very different.
Others have also pointed out that throwing a gender reveal party does not inherently mean that the parents are transphobic or will be unaccepting of their child if they are gender non-conforming.
What is important to note, however, is that it is not about whether or not every individual partaking in gender reveal parties is transphobic, it is about the norms and values that these parties perpetuate.
Eradicating gender reveal parties does not mean that all parents must raise their babies gender neutral (that is another discussion altogether). Instead, it is about placing less emphasis on it as a defining feature of an unborn baby before they have even had a chance to explore it for themselves.
It is about eradicating the gender stereotypes that place people in a box and are ultimately detrimental to everyone
And on a broader scale, it is about a move to stop engaging with and perpetuating norms and ideals of gender that contribute to systems of oppression and discrimination against those who are gender non-conforming, as well as the many cisgender people who do not uphold the stereotypical ideals of their gender.
It is about eradicating the gender stereotypes that place people in a box and are ultimately detrimental to everyone. As said by ALOK, ‘The real ideology at play here is a system which romanticizes the denial of individuality in the service of maintaining category.’
Featured image courtesy of Frederick Medina via Unsplash. Image license found here. No changes were made to this image.
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